During Advent we plead for the Lord to come and visit us. This might seem strange: He has already visited us by His incarnation, being born at Bethlehem, teaching and working miracles, suffering and dying for us, rising again, and ascending in glory.
We also look forward to His second coming at the end of time, praying with the first Christians “Maranatha. Come Lord Jesus!” It is instructive for us to ponder the eagerness of the disciples for the Lord to come in glory. They wanted Him to come, they were eager for the end of the world and for the final glory of the kingdom to come.
We on the other hand think of the end of the world as something frightening, not something to be looked forward to. We are tempted to be complacent, as though our life in this world were final, as though this life were all that there is, and and as though we could just carry on and ignore our judgement and our final end.
When we pray the sacred Liturgy of the Church, we should not understand the texts that ask the Lord to come here and now as referring only to the past or the future. The sacred Liturgy is not just a theoretical exercise, still less a mere social occasion or an interlude to make us feel virtuous. It is, on the contrary, the actio Dei, the action of God Himself in our midst, challenging us here and now to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
In the sacred Liturgy which feeds into our Christian life, we ask the Lord to be born in our hearts anew each day. The sacred Liturgy, the solemn ceremonial prayer of the Church, begs for the grace of God to be given to us in the sacraments, so that Christ may really live in our hearts.
The grace of God is freely given to us, and of itself makes us holy, but God respects our human nature which He has created, and asks us to respond using our free will. We co-operate with the grace of God by prayer, penance and works of charity.
During Advent, we must examine our lives in the light of Christ and make those changes with are necessary. We can sum these up as prayer, penance and charity.
We try to pray with greater faithfulness and sincerity. We might need to look at our daily prayers, the way that we prepare for Mass and give thanksgiving afterwards, whether we have been to confession recently. We need to deny ourselves so as to take up the cross and follow Christ, perhaps looking at any bad habits that we have and addressing them during the preparation for Christmas so that we can celebrate the feast with pure hearts.
And we need to serve others through works of charity, knowing that whenever we do so, we are serving Christ.
Let us now offer our lives in union with Christ as we offer the Holy Sacrifice.
Sermon preached by Fr Finigan at St Austin and St Gregory, Margate, 1st Sunday of Advent, 30 November 2014.